Taking up residence in the short-lived nightclub, The Social, new Chinese restaurant Zhu Dang keeps the thumpy hip-hop vibe, but rearranges the soaring space to include an open kitchen (think fiery wok cooking from a distance), a long bar with stacks of copper mugs, and an airy dining area. Owner Steve Cheng (his resume includes Taste and Urbane) is, injecting cuisine from various regions of China with Pacific Northwest flair, via two co-executive chefs, one of whom brings serious dumpling bona fides.
After a bit of a soft opening, the restaurant (technical address: 1715 E Olive Way) officially opens its doors Tuesday, Dec 16 at 5pm. Here’s an idea of what you might find…
Eat: Anything dumpling- or noodle-related. They’re likely the work of Ken Lee, one of Zhu Dang’s two executive chefs who was previously a master trainer at dumpling mecca Din Tai Fung. The kitchen is also headed up by Pat Chang, who has cooked at Joule, Revel, Nell’s, and Café Campagne. Familiar dishes such as egg drop soup and shen jian bao (small pan-fried dumpling made with yeasted dough and here filled with chicken) make appearances on the Zhu Dang menu. But imagine the soup with delightfully fishy snow crab bits and butternut squash. For a total departure from dishes you’d find elsewhere, try the spicy Mongolian beef tartare, made with Snake River Farm waygu, or the kung pao frog legs with toasted chili.
Drink: Drunken tea. It’s one of the warming, spiced concoctions currently occupying the house cocktail list: brandy, Grand Marnier, amaro, amaretto, a bit of caramelized ginger, and hot tea. Or, if you’re looking to drink something that’s actually warm, there’s a nice selection of teas (served by the small and large pot, $3 and $5 respectively) from Remedy Teas.
Sit: In a booth facing the kitchen. Typically Chinese kitchens operate behind closed doors, but here Cheng wants diners to see the cooks hard at work. For great views of the original 1920s hardwood floor and ceiling, sit anywhere in the sea of tables centered in the 2,500 square foot space.
Bonus Intel: In the back area—where the gyrating actually went down at the former nightclub—Cheng is hoping to create an old school–style Chinese banquet hall outfitted with large round tables ideal for sharing dishes family-style. This space will soon debut as an area to host private events (it’s already equipped with a large drop-down screen, so they mean business).
And, as many a Chinese restaurant before them, Zhu Dang will be opened for dinner Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.